Our ‘shift to sustainability’ would not be complete without a plan for feeding ourselves. I’m reminded of this every time I visit the grocery store and get sideways looks from the other shoppers while I grumble about the overpriced pathetic display of produce and pitiful cuts of meat, packaged single serving but priced the same as multiple serving packages cost just a short time ago. I’ve become that grumpy old lady who complains and mumbles under her breath and pays for her order with loose change, not because I don’t have bills but because it’s a small revenge where none other is available. Except that I’m in my thirties and can move faster; I just choose not to.
So, we need a garden. A big one. Our soil is primarily clay though which, while great for building, is ill suited to support most crops. And I’m not a gardener. For those of you who haven’t read further into our blog, I’m a city girl. I used to buy, buy, buy everything that I needed and when it ran out or broke down or I got bored of it, I’d simply buy more. I’m of a generation that was born and socialized to consume, and consume I did. So this “self-sufficient” thing is a learning curve for me. I am, however, a natural researcher and research I have.
First things first- building the soil. I’ve never even heard of ‘building soil’. I thought it was something you bought in bags at the garden centre. Or something your property naturally came with. But there is very little topsoil in this region. One of the reasons we are called the “Special Areas”. A 5,000,000 acre disaster. A beautiful disaster, certainly, just no good for regular food production. Anyway, since the clay is no good for food production I have taken to building small garden plots from scratch, with the intention of expanding each year until I have a veritable jungle garden. Lofty goal you’re thinking. Absolutely. But I’m encouraged by the results already.
I started with breaking up the soil, or sod in some cases, and then laid newspaper recovered from a local recycling bin. Overtop the newspaper, I spread grass clippings and organic compost scraps, then some soil from where an old barn used to stand (nice and fluffy with bits of rotting wood), then some straw donated from a farmer, then some more of the fluffy soil and voila- raised bed gardens. Actually, it was more work than that. Never in my life would I have imagined I could haul so much earth. I’m impressed, and I don’t impress easily. We have a good stash of wood that we’ve recovered from various dumps so I used some of that to build frames, and rocks from the property to frame other small spaces.
It’s small, compared to what I envision in the future, but it’s already producing. And I’ve got a good variety going. We have two kinds of lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, red and yellow onions, three kinds of peppers, beans, raspberries, strawberries, garlic, two varieties of squash, pumpkin, cucumber, rosemary, and a variety of wild flowers to attract beneficial insects. This year is an exercise in beneficial pairings, we’ll see what does best (and what doesn’t) and I’ll refine it next year. But the other day when I was walking back from the work site and looked over to see my plants growing- well my heart just soared.
We’ve been building the house together. It’s a seven day a week job. I work on it every day and Shane works evenings and weekends, ironically (sadly?) once he’s home from work. It’s a team effort all the way. But the garden is all me. I’ve been putting it together in between working on the site. And it’s flourishing! Even with our disastrous spring weather and the pest problems that are plaguing the region this year. I’m thrilled. And encouraged. We really can do this. I have a ton to learn about seed harvesting and food storage- thankfully I was paying attention when my grandparents canned and made preserves so I can already do that- but I’m optimistic. We’re off to a magnificent start!
Alright, well back to work on the house. Ciao for now! Brandee